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The Silver Bullet in Business

Why in business, do we not practice more?

You’ve likely heard Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on it taking 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Josh Kaufman, the author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, believes it takes 20 hours of practice to learn a new skill. Between the two, we know to become "good” at something, we are looking at somewhere between 20 to 10,000 hours of practice. Pick any profession (athletes, actors, musicians, chefs) and it's clear to see how many hours go into practice before going live. In business, people often say “you’ll learn through experience”. That is true, but why do we assume experience has to be live in front of a client or prospect?


Since joining Butler Street 4 years ago, I have found most are looking for the “silver bullet” when it comes to achieving success in business. While there is no silver bullet, the fastest way to achieve success is through role practice. Yet most companies overlook this. Why?


Three reasons:


Fear


Let’s be honest, the main reason people don’t want to role practice is fear. We do not want to “sound stupid” in front of others (and this applies to the leaders too). Most of the time people want to talk their way out of role practice. What do I mean? When it comes to practicing for a situation, most want to have an open discussion about what they would say or would not say in that scenario, rather than role practice. I know because I used to do this. I was scared and the more tenured I became, the more I felt I should know how to handle any conversation.


Recommendation: First, check the ego. Understand you may not have all the answers and you might trip up. But welcome that. Welcome the idea of getting better. Welcome the idea of tripping up now rather than in a live opportunity. Welcome knowing that you are getting better than most of your competitors because you are putting in the work.


Intellectual Knowledge & Skill Building


Before joining Butler Street, I talked my way out of every role practice. My manager and I would discuss a scenario, whether a prospecting call or sales meeting, and I would share what I said, what the client/prospect said, and we would talk about what I could have done differently. I would ask questions until the time was up, safely avoiding actual role practice.

I see business professionals trying to do this same exact thing when working with them through trainings. The problem is this only touches on the intellectual knowledge side of things. Everyone knows how they want a situation to go, and it is easy to talk about it in hindsight. But talking about it does not enhance the actual skills of the individual. You need both. Think of an NFL team. They have film sessions, talk through plays, and then spend hours actually running those plays, creating muscle memory before game day.


In business, we do not do this. In most cases, we spend time talking about things, but little time actually developing the skills.


Recommendation: It’s okay to talk through different scenarios, but make sure we spend time going live and creating “muscle memory”. Understand most business professionals can talk through how they would “handle” different situations yet struggle when they are in front of the client. It is easy to talk the talk, but make sure we can walk the walk.


Structure


The last reason why so many companies struggle when it comes to role practice is the lack of structure. Prior to Butler Street, the practice was optional for me, and it was more of an open discussion. Now, each week a scenario is sent to all sales reps & leaders at Butler Street on Monday. We have until Thursday to draft up our script, upload it into our “Role Practice” OneNote, and come prepared to role practice live in front of our peers. Once people log in, we decide who wants to go first, identify which person will be the client/prospect, and let each individual run through their scripts. Everyone does it and it is non-negotiable. The benefits are greater than I anticipated.


For starters, we now have a library of 20+ scenarios with 5-6 different scripts. When I plan for a sales meeting or prospecting call, I simply go to OneNote and find what scenario/objection I think I will run into, and add it to my call plan. I also sound 100% more confident in front of clients & prospects. I have come to welcome the challenge because of the preparation I have been through.


Recommendation:

  • Start with blocking time on your team calendar.

  • Set the stage - everyone is going to participate (including the leader).

  • Send a scenario a couple of days before the session and ask everyone to come prepared with a script.

  • Role practice live. Do not simply talk about it. Have someone be the client or prospect and go.

  • After role practice is complete, ask everyone what they liked and what they may do differently.

  • Create a safe environment where coaching & feedback is welcomed. Encourage successful failures.

Going back to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours or Josh Kaufman’s 20, it’s clear becoming good at something takes time. Stop having that “time” in front of clients & prospects and increase the time spent role-practicing internally. As part of our training programs, we set up role practice scenarios with our clients and help them develop their skill sets. There really is no such thing as a silver bullet but after honing this skill, you will quickly and confidently handle objections, ask the right questions, and build trust. If this is an area of opportunity for you and your team, I welcome your time to connect in the near future!